If you’re struggling to get your products into more people’s hands due to the rising cost of advertising, you’re not alone. Here’s the good news. By tapping into the power of affiliate marketing to start an affiliate program for your ecommerce store, you can drive high quality traffic and sales very affordably.
What is an Affiliate Program?
An affiliate program is a customer acquisition tool merchants (like you) can create to generate more sales with the help of publishers (like bloggers and websites). When a new publisher is approved into your affiliate program, they become your affiliate and get unique tracking links that they will use whenever they share your products online. Every time someone clicks through to your website with their link and makes a purchase, you generate a sale and they earn a commission of that sale.
As the program creator, you get to decide how much to pay affiliates and for what – such as a percentage per sale or a flat rate per lead. You also outline terms and conditions so they know what promotional methods they are allowed to use when marketing your brand to their audience.
Why Start an Affiliate Program?
Literally anyone selling anything online can start an affiliate program, whether that’s physical products, digital goods or even services. The only requirement is that your stuff must be sold online through your website or on a platform that has affiliate tracking capabilities.
Here are some of the great reasons to consider an affiliate program for your product business:
Affiliate Program Launch Myths
There are several misconceptions floating around when it comes to starting an affiliate program. Here’s a look at the most common ones I hear.
Myth #1 – It’s too difficult to DIY the tech involved with an affiliate program
Even for the most tech-averse, the affiliate program setup process is fairly simple.
One exception is software products and apps, especially if you want to pay on the sale instead of a lead. However, if you’re part of this field, chances are you’ve got an awesome developer on staff or contract who can tackle implementation for you.
Myth #2 – An affiliate program sounds like a risky or expensive business investment
In my experience, starting an affiliate program is the opposite of risky or expensive.
Keep in mind, you should consult with a lawyer and/or educate yourself on Affiliate Nexus laws before launching to understand which affiliate States you can and cannot allow into your program.
Myth #3 – It’ll take way too much time to set up, launch and manage my affiliate program
You don’t have to invest tons of time to see results with an affiliate program…
The bottom line is you get to choose your own adventure when creating an affiliate program. Just be sure to complete an affiliate program competitive analysis before launching to develop a winning program structure affiliates will love.
A Few Platforms You Can Start Your Affiliate Program With
You have a lot of choices when it comes to affiliate tracking platforms. Today I’ll share 3 options I’ve found the easiest to get started with.
1. Launch an affiliate program with Refersion
Refersion is designed to help you quickly create and launch your own promotion network. They handle all the heavy lifting, allowing you to focus on growing your business through partnerships with bloggers, influencers, ambassadors, and promoters.
Merchants using Refersion: Natural Stacks and Best Self
Pricing details: $29 per month (up to 30 affiliate orders) or $89 per month (up to 130 affiliate orders). For unlimited orders, you’ll need to contact Refersion for pricing.
Refersion offers a free 14-day trial on both their Starter and Professional packages. Once signed up, you can use their Start Guide to get your affiliate program set up in a jiffy. Alternatively, you can use their Shopify App or BigCommerce App to get started.
2. Launch an affiliate program with AffiliateWP
AffiliateWP allows you to easily create a full-featured affiliate program on WordPress. It’s known for being an easy-to-use, reliable WordPress plugin that gives you the affiliate marketing tools you need to grow your business and make more money.
Who can use it: WordPress.org users
Merchants using AffiliateWP: Paul Jarvis, Startup Camp, and Nomadic Matt.
Pricing details: $99 to $249 per year, depending on how many WordPress sites you want to run the plugin on and if you want their pro add-ons. You can also pay a one-time price of $499 for unlimited everything, lifetime access and all current and future add-ons.
Go to AffiliateWP to sign up, then upload the plugin to your WordPress site. From there, use their in-depth Getting Started documentation to get your program set up. Should you run into any hiccups, their FAQ and Support sections are available to assist you.
3. Launch an affiliate program with ShareASale
ShareASale is an affiliate marketing network that’s been around since 2000, serving both merchants and affiliates. ShareASale’s technology receives accolades for speed, efficiency, and accuracy – and their reputation as a fair and honest business is well known within the affiliate industry.
Great for: Users on virtually any ecommerce platform, including software applications.
Merchants using ShareASale: ModCloth, Reebok, and FreshBooks.
Pricing details: $550 one-time setup fee plus $100 minimum deposit for affiliate commissions.
I bet you’re wondering why a merchant would pay hundreds to launch their affiliate program when solutions like AffiliateWP and Refersion are much more affordable. There are some very compelling reasons, which I’ll outline below.
Start by signing up as a merchant here. You aren’t obligated to pay the setup fee until you complete tracking implementation and testing so go ahead and get started. Upon logging in, you’ll see ShareASale’s helpful merchant setup wizard, which walks you through an 8-step launch process.
3 Success Tips for Your Affiliate Program
Now that you know what an affiliate program is and how to create one, I’d like to share 3 tips to ensure your program gets off to a great start.
Don’t expect results overnight
When I chat with startups interested in launching a program, I tell them it’ll take months to see consistent results and more than a year to see significant sales. That’s because once your affiliate program is live, you’ll need to recruit and activate new affiliates before the sales pour in and there’s no way to rush that process.
While I can understand your desire to see the time and money you initially invest pay off quickly, affiliate marketing just doesn’t work like that. Unlike with paid advertising where you can turn on a switch and watch results trickle in, affiliate marketing is about building and nurturing relationships. Speaking of which…
Treat your affiliates like partners
In addition to being an affiliate manager, I’m also a content affiliate that’s been fortunate enough to work with wonderful affiliate managers who truly care about their affiliates.
I’ve also dealt with my fair share of affiliate managers who didn’t understand how to treat affiliates. For example, once I received a newsletter from a merchant that threatened to remove affiliates from their program if they didn’t send a sale by the end of the month. Another time, a merchant refused to let affiliates promote a cool resource they offered, even though other types of partners were allowed to share it.
Here’s the thing: affiliates are independent people or organizations who work at their own pace and don’t owe you anything. You’re there to answer questions, offer tips and troubleshoot problems. Basically it’s your job to help them succeed, not enforce rules or deny resources that will discourage and demotivate them. Build strong relationships with your affiliates and affiliate sales will follow.
Educate yourself about the industry
I’ve been involved with the affiliate marketing industry for nearly a decade and still learn something new every single day. To grow your affiliate program, try and set aside time each week to learn more about the industry, from both the affiliate manager’s and affiliate’s perspective. Here are a few resources to help you:
Starting an affiliate program is an affordable and low-risk way to grow your product sales. Just remember you’ll need to invest time in the early days to develop a winning program structure, set up your affiliate platform and source affiliates for your program. Once the program is generating 5-10%+ of your overall product sales, you can hire help or retain an affiliate agency to manage the day-to-day of the program for you.